Heresies: Gnosticism

Gnosticism is a wide-reaching, ancient and popular heresy that comes from the Greek word, γνωστικός, or “knowledge.” Gnosticism’s most basic tenet is the , the rejection of the material world as essentially bad and embrace of the spiritual as inherently good. Gnosticism predates Christianity, but was tuned and adapted to Christianity at the earliest stages of church history. Gnosticism, therefore, also exists in Judaism and in pagan religions.
Secondary tenets of Gnosticism include:

  • The existence of a singular and distance “Monad” divine being (sometimes known also as The One, The Absolute, or The Beginning)
  • The branching out from the Monad of other divine beings, called Aeons
  • A god who is a creator of all that humanity knows, called the demiurge, who is a picture, type or illusion of the Monad
  • The concept that salvation can be had when created beings inwardly are effected to return to the Monad, returning the individual to a divine nature
  • Jesus was seen as the embodiment of the Monad to bring knowledge to Earth
  • The necessity of having divine gnosis (knowledge) to be one with the Monad and overcome earthly and fleshly existence

Many early non-canonized sub-Christian works are tainted with Gnostic philosophy, and it was perhaps the most common, troubling and persistent doctrines that plagued the early Church.
Modern adherents are usually not fully embracing of Gnosticism, per se, but practice a subset of Gnosticism in any number of off-shoot heresies. Carl Jung and other modern thinkers have adopted Gnosticism or a Neo-Gnosticism, and many sub-Christian mystics are steeped in Gnostic ideology.


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